Renting a car or taking a road trip through the Channel Tunnel when holidaying in Europe is a great way to explore nearby countries.

However, many of these nations have very different driving rules compared to those we're used to in the UK, putting holidaymakers at risk of big fines.

With so many people getting behind the wheel and exploring what Europe has to offer, here are 7 unusual driving rules Brits should know.

7 unusual driving laws in Europe every British tourist should know about or risk being fined thousands

Swindon Advertiser: High-viz jackets are a legal requirement for drivers in France (Canva)High-viz jackets are a legal requirement for drivers in France (Canva) (Image: Canva)

Here are the strange driving laws used in several European countries that UK holidaymakers should be aware of when travelling:

High-viz jacket and warning triangle rule in France

For a number of years now, France has required that drivers carry high-viz jackets and warning triangles in their vehicles in case of emergencies.

It's important to carry these items as not doing so could result in fines of up to £643.

Drivers in France are also required to carry a breathalyser. This allows drivers to check that their alcohol levels are safe before setting off behind the wheel.

International Driving Permit

In order to drive in some European countries, motorists must carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). However, the permit you need will depend on where you are going and for how long.

This requirement is only needed in some non-EU European nations with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein also not requiring this if you hold a valid photo-card driving licence.

You may need to apply for these permits if you only have a paper licence.

Carry spare glasses 

Drivers who need prescription glasses are required by law in Switzerland, Spain, Germany and France to carry a spare set.

This law was introduced to ensure every driver has adequate vision if their primary set is broken and could see drivers landed with big fines for not complying.

Swindon Advertiser: Those requiring prescription glasses are supposed to carry a spare pair in some European countries (Canva)Those requiring prescription glasses are supposed to carry a spare pair in some European countries (Canva) (Image: Canva)

Driving a car equipped for the climate

It's always worth checking the local laws and requirements for cars as the continent is home to dozens of climates.

Alexander Haraldsson, CEO at Lotus Car Rental, adds: “In Iceland for instance, weather conditions can be extremely unpredictable even during the summer months. Heavy rain, strong winds and even snow can make driving conditions difficult for locals, let alone unsuspecting tourists.

“For this reason, it’s mandatory for all motorists to use winter tyres from November to April in certain parts of the country. These tyres add extra traction on icy roads and are essential for anyone who plans to head out of Reykjavik and explore the open road. If caught without, drivers could face hefty fines anywhere up to £114.”


One driving rule Brits don't often think about is overtaking as this isn't closely policed in the UK.

However, in Spain, rules around overtaking are strict with fines of up to £514, licence points and even suspensions handed out for infractions.

Headlight usage 

To ensure roads are as safe as possible, some countries require that drivers use their headlights at all times, not just when it gets dark.

Nations like Poland, Bulgaria and Iceland require that drivers use their headlights both at night and during daylight hours.

Drink driving 

When on holiday, it is common for tourists to enjoy a tipple but each country has different drink-driving laws.

European nations all have different legal blood alcohol concentration level limits for driving with Norway having among the strictest at just 0.02%. Having even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system could see fines of between £736.23 and £1458.86.